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Lawrence or Fields? Vikings Face Tough Decision in 2021 Draft.

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The current Minnesota Vikings’ season is a mess. Just when you think the offense is going to go off and put up 30 to 40 points, the young defense falters late. When their young defense shows promise, the offense takes a step back (or Dalvin Cook gets hurt)… etc. This is a team that just can’t seem get all of its wheels turning simultaneously.

Now, the Vikings find themselves at 1-4 with their 2020 season on the verge of collapse. Sure, they might be the best one-win team in football and unlikely to finish 2020 with a record putrid enough to command a top-five pick, but let’s assume a worst-case scenario (why not?) for this exercise.

Like… how about a scenario where Minnesota loses the rest of their games this season and finishes 1-15? In that winter wonderland, the Vikings would likely receive the 2021 #1 overall pick in April’s draft (along with a plethora of negative fallout we won’t talk about in this blog).

Quarterbacks matter more.

Football is a team game and any team bad enough to hold the #1 pick would have a lot of holes to fill. But come draft time, there’s only one position on everyone’s mind.



Before the hate mail starts arriving from the Kirk Cousins’ allegiance, let me note that I’m not a Kirk hater. I just enjoy dabbling in “what could be” when the current Vikings season is up in flames. If the Vikings were to fall off a cliff so tall that they finish with the worst record in the NFL, I can promise you they aren’t passing on 2021’s QB talent.

Pick of the Litter

As you may know, there are only two quarterbacks worthy of being selected first overall. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Forget NDSU’s Trey Lance. Nobody in the NFL is drafting a JV QB with the top pick. That mistake has already been made. Forget Kyle Trask from Florida. I like Trask, but he won’t showcase enough in 2020 to make the jump to number one.

So, who should the Vikings select between Lawrence and Fields? The answer: Justin Fields.



Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields came out of the same 2018 Georgia recruiting class as the first and second ranked quarterbacks, respectively. Because of that, the two will almost always be intertwined with one another.

Lawrence Got His Shot When Fields Didn’t

Lawrence started sooner than Fields and it wasn’t because he was more ready or more talented. Instead, it highlights how much better of a coach and talent developer Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is than Georgia’s Kirby Smart.

Entering the 2018 season, both Clemson and Georgia were faced with a decision at QB. Hand the starting job off to a struggling and often mediocre guy with experience or start fresh with your inexperienced, but extremely talented Georgia freshman. Dabo saw the signs early and moved for Lawrence over Kelly Bryant. They won the National Championship.

Kirby on the other hand, wasn’t as in-tune with his team. He gave the job to Jake Fromm and Fields hopped in the transfer portal. The Bulldogs went a mediocre (by their standards) 11-3 that season and lost in the Sugar Bowl.



Everywhere You Compare, Fields is Better than Lawrence

As an Ohio State fan (long story) I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “Fields couldn’t even beat out Fromm at Georgia”. That was not the case. Instead, Fields was subjected to a coach who stood too loyally by his veteran quarterback and Kirby Smart was burned for it. He watched the CFP from his couch last year while Lawrence and Fields were battling it out in a 1st round heavyweight brawl.

Let’s look at 2019, for example. Remember, entering this season Lawrence already had a full year of experience and a National Championship under his belt. Fields hadn’t taken a snap on a college football field. Yet, Justin was better in just about every category.

Lawrence also plays in the ACC, which can’t hold a candle to the Big Ten from a competition standpoint (more on that later).


Cmp.Att.%Yards Y/ATDINTRatingRush Att.Rush YardsRush Avg.Rush TD
Trevor Lawrence26840765.83,6659.0368166.71035635.59
Justin Fields23835467.23,2739.2413181.41374843.510
Lawrence vs. Fields 2019 seasons (via sports-reference.com)

To nobody’s surprise, Lawrence has gotten off to a hot start for 2020, throwing for 1,140 yards and 10 touchdowns on 72.4% passing with a 183.4 rating and some rushing scores. We live in a, “what have you done for me lately” society so Lawrence is the hot commodity since he is actually playing. That will all change in a couple weekends.

Outside of Clemson, the ACC kinda sucks

Clemson doesn’t play the same level of competition week in and week out, that Ohio State does, but that didn’t matter to Justin Fields. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) — plus some other advanced metrics — shows that Fields played better than Lawrence in 2019, even while he facing more stifling competition throughout the season.


FPIStrength of RecordStrength of ScheduleGame ControlAvg. Win Prob.Offensive Efficiency
Ohio State37.7 (1st)2nd8th2nd1st95.3 (2nd)
Clemson31.5 (2nd)3rd49th3rd3rd89.1 (5th)
via ESPN.com

If Lawrence is better than Fields, why are his stats not better, especially while playing worse competition? Sure, we’ve seen Lawrence perform in bigger moments, including two national title games and one championship. And yes, he beat Fields in last season’s CFP semi-final too.

But let’s not forget the extra games Lawrence has played. Fields would have more moments and probably more screen time, had Kirby Smart made the right decision in 2018 and Justin had stayed in the SEC, facing off against the Alabama’s and LSU’s of the world. He could have easily won that aforementioned matchup vs Clemson last season too, had Ohio State’s Chris Olave not broken off his route a step too soon.



Fields Grades Out Better Too

Needless to say, Lawrence has been given the benefit of the doubt and had more ideal opportunities to showcase his abilities than Fields. This is not a knock against Fields though. Because guess what, Fields still grades better as a NFL prospect than Lawrence. The ace in the hole.

Finally, Fields grades out better than Lawrence as a professional prospect, given the way the NFL is shifting. While Lawrence can run, Fields is bigger, faster and stronger; posting a 4.50 40-yd-dash at 6′ 3″ and 228 lbs.

According to Pro Football Focus, Fields outdoes Lawrence in nearly each category.



Passing GradeIntermediate GradeDeep GradeNo Pressure GradePressure Grade
Justin Fields92.494.695.194.169.1
Trevor Lawrence85.490.889.687.370.9
via Pro Football Focus

Some of these disparities may be caused by differing offensive systems, but the Ravens, Chiefs and others have proven the NFL is adapting to college football and not the other way around. Lawrence and Fields both move well and throw the ball accurately. The numbers show that much. Justin just does it a little better and more efficiently.

I am not saying Lawrence isn’t a great quarterback. Far from it, actually. It’s a “pick your poison” situation. What I am saying, is I’d take Justin Fields if I were calling the shots. I’ll be changing my hashtag usage to #FailForFields because #TankForTrevor is the 2nd best answer at this point.

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

jkewitsch

Edina native and two-time grad of the University of Florida in Sport Management. Previously worked with the Timberwolves and Minnesota United FC along with the Gators.

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